Bollywood hots up
By CNN Correspondent Andrew Stevens
MUMBAI, India (CNN) -- Bollywood, the world's most prolific film industry, is renowned for serving up fans with a steady diet of wholesome singing and dancing fun.
But things are hotting up in South Asia, with more and more movies out of Mumbai not only showing long-forbidden kissing, but quite a bit of skin too.
In a country where talking about sex is still pretty much taboo, the film industry is starting to push the boundaries.
Steamy scenes between newcomer Mallika Sherawat and her own screen beau Himanshu Malik in the Govind Menon-directed "Khwahish," are now becoming run of the mill.
This is despite the movie containing some heavy petting and seventeen kisses.
While the images may not appear to be particularly risque to a viewer from the United States or Europe, it is a different story in India.
"Actually when we say sex, we're not talking about, you know, love-making," says film critic Indu Mirani.
"What we're talking about is a hint of sex, of bodies, especially the female form and some heaving and puffing. You know things like that."
Still, it's a far cry from a decade ago when a tender moment involved cutting to a scene of a flower garden or ducks floating on a pond.
Since the beginning of this year, 29 films have been released in India and 18 of them have been given "adults only" ratings, mostly for their sexual content.
"Sex has always been taboo in the country basically, and now there's this feeling that if you do an adult film and you show promos and have provocative posters, you'll get a certain section of the audience to the theater," says Mirani.
Adult only films are proving a modest commercial success, but it's hardly generating a revolution on the streets of Bombay.
"It's not our culture. I don't think its part of Indian culture," complained one young Indian woman.
Another said she preferred the sexy images kept behind closed doors. A third woman said she thought it was better that India opened up to what has previously been a closed issue.
"I think it's good that they are showing more realistic movies," she said.
Realism is indeed entering the Bollywood film scene. Madhur Bhandarkar is the director of a new movie being shot on Mumbai streets dealing with the very real issue of terrorism.
Bhandarkar has already achieved critical success with "Chandni Bar," the gritty story of a bar dancer confronting such issues as prostitution and aids.
But while building a reputation for casting a spotlight on some of the country's unspoken issues, he says that in India sex alone will not sell a movie.
"You can't titillate audiences just by putting just sex or any other thing like that," he says.
"It has to have a complete bonding and it has to have more substance in the movie."
So while it may be a growing trend in India, no one is betting that sex on screen will be rewriting the age-old formula that has made Bollywood such a success.